There are many ways and means to make a statement which adequately celebrates this occasion on which we recall the memory and legacy of the founder of our nation, King Shaka ka Senzangakhona. I firmly believe that on such an important occasion words are not the only way to express the full measure of the significance of this occasion. The presence of those gathered here today, and the efforts they have made to make this celebration possible, are perhaps a more important statement than we can ever make in words. Those who are gathered together here to celebrate our shared Zuluness are making the statement that this occasion deserves with their dances, songs and rituals.

It is sad that this important celebration coincides with the funeral which is taking place at KwaDlamahlahla Palace, of Prince Mali ka Mcwayizeni. I wish before I go on with what I have to say, to request that we all stand up and observe a silence.

I do not wish to detract for long from the celebrations of King Shaka Day which express themselves when we dance together, sing together and eat together as Zulus. In my remarks I only wish to highlight that our coming together year after year to celebrate the memory of our founder, is neither an empty ritual nor one which is easy to accomplish. It has taken a great deal of effort to make this occasion a reality, and it is greatly remarkable that all this has been possible without any support or contribution by government. It is not that the donation was requested or declined. However, last year there was a donation from the Department of Arts, Culture, Science & Technology. But we are still proud to have borne the expenses of this function ourselves.

We owe it to the efforts of our amaKhosi that this annual event is made possible and to the many contributions made by the members of our various communities. In this regard the organisation of this event is in itself an expression of the cultural legacy that we have received from King Shaka. King Shaka enabled our nation to be independent and self-reliant and to be powerful and strong because of his capacity of always relying on himself. Most of all, since the time of King Shaka our amaKhosi have been the backbone of our Kingdom which has maintained the internal organisation of our Kingdom as well as promoted its activities and functions, including celebrations such as this one. We owe it to amaKhosi and the social structure which they represent and express, that this annual gathering becomes possible and maintains its significance.

Year after year we find new and greater significance in the legacy which the founder of our nation, King Shaka ka Senzangakhona has bestowed upon his posterity for many generations for come. Year after year we find new meanings and new elements of that legacy which hold important lessons for our present day life. However, throughout the many lessons which we have highlighted on each occasion on which we came together to celebrate our Kingdom and its founder, there is one lesson which emerges above all others. It seems to be the core element of King Shaka’s legacy. There is one message that we can never forget and we shall always uphold and promote as the key element of our Zuluness and the only assurance that our Zuluness may survive and prosper within the overall make-up of South Africa. This is the message which calls for the everlasting unity of the Zulu nation.

The unity of the Zulu nation was the true legacy of the life and deeds of King Shaka. He conquered not to destroy, but to unify. He built unity where disunity existed and brought peace where war existed, through the strength of unity. He proved to the world that when united, the Zulu nation cannot be defeated or suppressed. His message of unity runs through the history of the Zulu nation which throughout its dramatic unfolding proves that whenever the Zulu nation has not acted with unity of intent and under a united leadership, it has suffered enormously and fallen prey to its opponents. Unity has enabled us to survive and overcome the many challenges which history placed before the Zulu nation. Our disunity has been a source of set-backs for the Zulu nation. We must keep this in mind as we consider the great challenges and opportunities with which the Zulu nation and the very notion of our Zuluness, are now confronted in the new South Africa.

The new South Africa offers both challenges and opportunities for us as Zulus. The barriers of social, economic and racial discrimination have finally fallen. The yokes of foreign, colonial and racial oppression have finally been lifted and we can stand tall with pride and self-confidence. Zulus are now finally free within their land and within the social context which surrounds us. However, as we look at the horizons of this new freedom we see that old boundaries no longer exist and the new ones remain uncertain and are probably bound to fade away as time goes by. Our Kingdom is now part of a unified South Africa which gathers together under the same umbrella of progress, development and shared aspirations, a multitude of nations, peoples and ways of life. We are Zulus who carry our Zuluness in a country which we share with people of other traditions, languages and cultural orientations. This is wonderful, enriching and greatly beneficial. It is also in line with the tradition of King Shaka who realised that the strength of the Zulu nation was in its capacity to be inclusive rather than exclusive. King Shaka brought into the Kingdom people with different traditions and even opened up our land and communities to white settlers because he realised how inputs of European cultures could help our Kingdom to grow and prosper.

However, that was at a time when the body of our Kingdom was strong and could easily receive and absorb all these inputs and contributions with no fear of losing its identity or perceptions of its purposes and goals. We knew who we were and where we were going and were aware of the destiny that history bestowed upon the Zulu people in Southern Africa. We must now reach and maintain the same awareness of who we are, where we are going and our continuing mission in Southern Africa so that we can reap the full benefits of the open and multi-cultural society with which we are now blessed without ever losing our identity and purpose as a nation. In order to do so, we need to ensure that the body of our Kingdom remains strong. We need to strengthen the backbone of our Kingdom and recognise the role that amaKhosi have played in the past and must play in the future in the preservation and prosperity of our Kingdom. The more our society and culture opens up to a fast world which exists outside it, the more it is important that we reinforce the pillars of our Zuluness and the role of our amaKhosi within our Kingdom so that our traditions may evolve to adjust to the demands of the new world but not be obliterated.

We are not against change and evolution. King Shaka himself was a great innovator and the world was radically changed by the transformation that he brought about within our culture and our social structures. However, change must move from within and can not be imposed from the outside. Change must preserve the identity of a nation enabling it to remain itself, while becoming different. Change which obliterates the identity of a nation is the death of a nation. We can not arrest change. We can not avoid change. We can not prevent change. Therefore, we must embrace change whilst strengthening our identity, so that our nation can flourish within change, and we can rightly become full right citizens not only of South Africa but also of a rapidly globalizing world, without ever losing our identity. Therefore, there is no contradiction between our embracing modernity and celebrating our traditions. There is no contradiction between whatever role may be demanded of us in a modern society and our coming here together to celebrate and experience our traditions and the great pride that they infuse in all of us.

I do not wish to take time away from these celebrations, which more than with words are fittingly performed with our songs and dances. We are who we are not only because we say so, but also because we feel and act that way, and we do so with pride and self-confidence. Let us be proud Zulus, now in this place and at this venue. Let us be proud Zulus as we move anywhere in South Africa. Let us be proud Zulus as we enter the global village which is now bringing closely together all the civilized nations of the world. We want to be participants in this world civilization and fully share in it, learning whatever we may to foster our own growth and prosperity and making whatever contribution we are capable of. But we wish to do so as proud Zulus who know where we intend to go because we shall never forget from whence we come, and the very genesis of our nation under the forging and unifying spirit and leadership of King Shaka. Let us be Zulus and throughout South Africa let us be united as Zulus under one leadership, with our amaKhosi and on the strength of a shared awareness of our mission in history.

May God bless our King.

May God bless our amaKhosi.

And may God bless the Zulu nation.


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